An Introduction to Eco-Friendly Furniture

Zillow
Photographer: Martin Barraud

According to the Sustainable Furnishings Council's fifth annual consumer research study, 49 percent of respondents indicated they were "definitely interested" or "very interested" in buying green, or eco-friendly, home furnishings. Meanwhile, 46 percent of respondents cited "lack of awareness" as the reason why they had not purchased green home furnishings.

Green furniture has several benefits besides diminishing your carbon footprint. Investing in green furniture also decreases your exposure to harmful fumes and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from paints and finishes, which can cause a series of health problems.

If you're interested in going green with your furniture, here are some tips to get you started.

What Is Green Furniture?

It's actually not that difficult or time-consuming to identify and buy eco-friendly products. Green furniture can be made from recycled materials such as metal or plastic. Other sustainable materials include bamboo, reclaimed wood. hemp, wheat and sunflower. Organic cotton and natural latex foam are great fillers for pillows and cushions.

If you're buying wooden furniture, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. All furniture with an FSC logo has been manufactured from sustainably managed forests and meets FSC criteria for being socially beneficial and economically viable. Also keep an eye out for a Sustainability Furniture Council tag, which indicates that the manufacturer pledges a commitment to sustainability.

Whenever possible, buy furniture made from a "secondary species." These wood types are less popular than the conventional woods used for furniture — you won't be contributing to the depletion of a more exhausted species, such as mahogany — but are equally durable. Examples of secondary species include sweetgum, madrone and California oak.

It's also important to consider lifespan when buying furniture. Will you be throwing your new end table out in a year? If so, it might be worth investing in something that you'll keep for longer, thus decreasing landfill waste.

'Off-Gassing'

One of the benefits of buying eco-friendly furniture is that you'll be populating your home with low-toxicity furniture, thus reducing health risks for you and your family. Some furniture can release gasses into the air, a phenomenon known as "off-gassing." A good way to circumvent off-gassing is to buy lightly used or vintage furniture, which has already released its gasses into the air.

Buy Local

Buying local furniture is a great way to support your local economy while reducing additional pollution caused by transportation and packaging. You'll also have a higher chance of finding a meaningful and unique piece for your home when you frequent the mom-and-pop stores in your community.

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Jenny Zhang is a writer at SpareFoot, the online marketplace where you can find and reserve a self-storage unit with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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